5 Disastrous Urban Renewal Failures

October 19, 2017

While urban renewal was primarily a mid-20th century phenomenon that decimated the cores of America's cities, here's a few disastrous failures that have occurred over the last 30 years.

2. Fort Trumbull - New London, CT

Located midway between New York City and Boston, the City of New London, CT was once recognized as the world's third busiest whaling port after New Bedford, MA and Nantucket. However, by the early 21st century, New London's waterfront had lost much of its historic shipping and industrial might.  Hoping to give the community an economic boost, city officials targeted 90 acres that were occupied with working-class homes in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, for eminent domain. Under the plan, officials envisioned a mixed-use urban village adjacent to pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc.'s, new $300 million research facility.

Believing their properties where being seized for private rather than public use, several residents fought the city's plans all the way to the United States Supreme Court. On February 22, 2005, the Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 vote in the case, Kelo v. City of New London, that the city may use eminent domain on privately owned property so that it could be used for private economic development, deciding that the tax revenue from the private development satisfied the requirement for public interest for eminent domain.

After investing $80 million to acquire and clear the land for redevelopment, financing for the project failed to materialize and the land remained vacant for years. To make matters worse, four years later, Pfizer relocated its nearby operations and 1,400 employees out of New London. If there is a silver light in this urban renewal disaster, more than 40 state legislatures would later pass laws restricting or banning the use of eminent domain for economic rejuvenation. Hopefully, we've seen the last of public acts that have directly led to urban renewal disasters as highlighted above.

1991 Google Earth aerial of Fort Trumbull.

2015 Google Earth aerial of Fort Trumbull.

Courtesy of the Institute For Justice

Courtesy of the Dakota voice

Courtesy of PropertyProfBlog

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